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What is Wheezing?

Hearing your dog wheezing can often be alarming for pet parents since it can sound like your pet is having an asthma attack. Wheezing is described as a whistling sound coming from your dog while he is breathing in and out. Although asthma is an uncommon but possible reason for wheezing, it is not the only one. Others possible causes include:

  • Allergies
  • Kennel cough
  • Bronchitis
  • Infections
  • Parasites

In most cases, there is a simple solution to your dog's wheezing. However, if the wheezing is persistent and happens often, you may want to consider bringing them to the veterinarian in order to ensure that it is not something serious.

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Why Wheezing Occurs in Dogs

Dogs have sensitive airways that should expand and contract in order to let the right amount of oxygen into the lungs. If there is a problem with the airways, it can cause wheezing as they are not expanding enough and the oxygen must squeeze its way through the tight airways. Failure of expansion in the airways can occur if your dog has:

Asthma

Dogs, like humans, can develop asthma when the large upper airways undergo spasms and constrictions. Asthma in dogs, which is also known as allergic bronchitis, is often caused by something in the environment that is causing a reaction. Some of these allergens include cigarette smoke, dust or smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and aromas from air fresheners and deodorizers. Your dog can be more susceptible to allergic bronchitis if he is young or middle-aged, although older dogs are not immune. It is also more common in older smaller dog breeds. Asthma, or allergic bronchitis, can often be treated with medication but can become chronic and very severe if overlooked and left for too long. Symptoms aside from wheezing can include a dry hacking cough and respiratory distress.

Allergies

Allergies to pollen, dust or cigarette smoke can also cause wheezing. Some dogs can also develop allergies to certain insect stings or bites. Wheezing might be accompanied by itching of the skin, sneezing and/or coughing. In some cases, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. Allergies in dogs can be fairly common in all breeds, and will usually appear between the age of six months to two years old.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a respiratory disease that can be highly contagious. It is usually acquired in places where a large amount of canines congregate, such as doggie daycare, dog parks, shows or training groups, as well as kennels (hence the name). The most obvious symptom is a strong cough, which will be accompanied by wheezing, sneezing, a loss of appetite, lethargy and sometimes a low fever. Mild kennel cough can be treated with a few weeks of rest, but your vet may choose to prescribe cough medication to ease the symptoms or antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. If your dog is often in contact with other canines, it may be wise to get a vaccination to prevent kennel cough.

Bronchitis

Aside from wheezing, signs of bronchitis can include a dry hacking cough that is usually triggered by stress, exercise or direct physical pressure on the trachea. There may also be a fluctuating fever, retching or gagging and passing of foamy saliva, intolerance to exercise, lethargy, a show of respiratory difficulty, and rapid breathing. Obesity can be a complicating factor that could increase your dog's risk of bronchitis. Any dog is at risk, but small toy breeds and aging or older dogs can be more susceptible.

Infections

There are many symptoms to upper respiratory infections, including sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge and irritation, a low-grade fever, eye discharge, difficulty and labored breathing, loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, exercise intolerance, snorting, wheezing and gagging. Puppies or older animals, unvaccinated pets, as well as dogs with impaired immune systems are more at risk to infections.

Parasites

If your dog is wheezing, coughing, losing weight, sneezing, has an increased breathing rate, nasal discharge, weakness, lethargyvomiting, regurgitation, aspiration of stomach contents and food, or worms present in the feces, he may have a parasitic infection. There are many types of parasites that can interfere with your dog's respiratory tract and cause wheezing.

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What to do if your Dog is Wheezing

If the wheezing does not last, and your dog seems to be acting normally and breathing without any problems, then you should keep an eye on them but going to the vet may not be necessary. If your pet is wheezing and seems to be having trouble breathing, then you should take them to the vet. Your canine could have an illness like bronchitis or kennel cough, or may have an object lodged in their throat. Whatever the case may be, it would be wise to visit your veterinarian. 

If you discover that your dog does have a foreign body present, if possible it is important to not try to get it out on your own as you could push it in further and block the airway completely. Instead you should get to the nearest veterinarian immediately and allow them to dislodge the object. Many of the causes for your dog’s wheezing, like asthma and allergies, can be cured by medication or antibiotics that will be prescribed by your vet. Others, like in the case of mild kennel cough, simply call for a few weeks of rest. Some illnesses, such as infections and parasites, can be prevented by vaccines.

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Prevention of Wheezing

Although most of the causes for wheezing are not fatal, it is best to not take chances and try to prevent it. To avoid wheezing and other symptoms, you should not let your dog eat any frozen foods or have access to small toys and objects that could potentially get stuck in their throat. To ensure that your pet is as healthy as can be, do not expose them to cigarette smoke, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, air fresheners or deodorizers, as they can be damaging to the lungs and respiratory system.

If a reaction to an inhalant or specific food is suspected, it is wise to test your dog for any allergies and decide with your vet whether your pet is in need of medication or if a product or food item needs to be eliminated from their diet or environment. Get your furry friend vaccinated for infections and kennel cough, especially if they spend a lot of time around other dogs. Keep an eye on your pet, and do not overlook any changes in behavior, appetite or energy levels, no matter how small, as they can often be part of something bigger.

Insuring your dog as soon as “pawssible” is essential for preventing high vet care costs. Start comparing insurance plans from leading insurers like Healthy Paws and Embrace and save over $270 a year.

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Cost of Wheezing

Treatments for wheezing can have different costs, depending on the actual cause. Treating allergic bronchitis, otherwise known as asthma, will be on average $400. If your dog has been diagnosed with kennel cough, expect to pay between $100 and $650, depending on the severity. Treatments for bronchitis can cost about $600.

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Wheezing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Terrier

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Reverse Sneezing And She'S Thrown Up 4 Times In 7 Days

Help

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 16, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Not sure maybe older

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up Wheezing

Came home today,my dog is throwing up, sick eyes and wheezing

Aug. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry your dog is sick. If she is vomiting repeatedly, and is having trouble breathing, she needs to go to an ER. It is difficult to say what she might have gotten into or what might be causing this, but they will be able to examine her, see what might be going on and let you know what sort of treatment she needs. I hope that everything goes well and she feels better soon.

Aug. 30, 2020

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